Tuesday 21st January

| BY Dino Bonacic

Ten Meets Caroline de Maigret, The Quintessential Chanel Woman Celebrating the Art of Aging

Is there anyone more French than Caroline de Maigret? The model-cum-muse-cum-musician is the face of French-ness along with baguettes, berets and the Eiffel Tower. So much so that if you search “chic french woman” on Google Image, her face is the first to pop up. It’s no surprise then that she is also the person the whole world turns to when in search for advice on injecting their lives with that laissez-faire attitude which we always tend to identify as quintessentially French. 

In 2014, de Maigret released a book with three of her friends: Anne Berest, Audrey Diwan and Sophie Mas. All chic, beautiful and accomplished French women ready to share a bit of their fabulosity with the world. The title of the book – How to Be Parisian Wherever You Are: Love, Style, and Bad Habits – was as tongue-in-cheek as the pages inside, insinuating a sort of guidebook to being chic but also debunking all those clichés that make the enviable figure of la Parisienne. This year, de Maigret and Mas are releasing a follow up to the publication – Older But Better, But Older. Decidedly more serious and focused on offering its reader the power to embrace themselves regardless of who they are and where they come from, it’s like a modern and fashionable incarnation of one of Eckhart Tolle’s self-help books. What does de Maigret think of this comparison? “Well, I do think that’s what all literature and movies are,” she says, arguing that the intention intention wasn’t to help but rather provide stories people can relate to. “In the book, I wrote how you know things aren’t the way they used to be when you find yourself reading more biographies. And I feel those are self-help books as you read about what choices people have made and how they succeeded.”

We’re sitting in grand Kipling suite inside the Browns Hotel in London, named after Rudyard Kipling who wrote The Jungle Book in the same room. A room of incredible literary energy, but de Maigret doesn’t seem too phased by it. From the moment we meet, she doesn’t break eye contact and continues to speak directly at me, without ever seeming like she’s overthinking the words that are coming out of her mouth. Five minutes in and the conversation is flowing as if we’re catching up after not seeing each other for years. Smooth and skilled at making you understand exactly what she’s feeling and thinking, Caroline de Maigret comes across as a spiritual leader of her own generation, celebrating the art of getting older. But instead of a white monastic gown, she’s wearing a pair of perfect jeans with a classic Chanel tweed jacket. 

Coming into her 40s, de Maigret felt like she was in a limbo. “I realised little by little that I’m not part of the youth club anymore which is strange. Why not? It’s either society and people around you that put you into that box. Or just your face.” Instead of trying to become younger or quickly growing up, she decided to find the beauty of the in-between and narrate it with the book. “It’s fine – you just have to get used to those new things that come into your life and digest them and be able to be okay with the change.” This is the kind of pearl of wisdom you will find on the pages of Older But Better, But Older, in the form of inspiration quotes, real-life advice, personal anecdotes or essays observing patterns of behaviour the duo noticed while growing up.

The book itself took just over two years to put together – “with a 10-month mid-life crisis in between,” de Maigret adds through laughter. “I was acting crazy partying all the time and stuff and being like ‘Nooo, I’m still young…’” As a result, one of the pages in the book carries quite a meaningful quote: “You know things aren’t what they used to be when you have more hangovers than actual parties.” Witty and self-deprecating, but with enough self-awareness to justify the confidence she carries herself with – that’s de Maigret in a nutshell. 

Sophie Mas & Caroline de Maigret; photo by Bertrand Le Pluard

In addition to personal experiences, some of the chapters in the book are dedicated to capturing evolution of aging through history. Did you know that women used to wax their forehead to appear younger in the Middle Ages? And that in the 16th century, French noblewoman Diane of Poitiers drank a special elixir of youth whose main ingredient was – wait for it – gold dust? While looking back is part of the package, de Maigret admits she’s not a nostalgic person. “I had the chance of having a crazy life so I have so many things happening to me but I don’t need to go search for them in the past.” Does she have any regrets though? “There is a time for everything and if I thought I should have been more crazy or had more sexual partners… I just wasn’t that person at the time; I was not ready to be that one that was standing on the table naked. I was at that party but I was dancing.”

In addition to having gold-star party goer on her booming resume, de Maigret’s career took quite a musical turn in the past decade. She DJs and produces music under Bonus Tracks Records, a label she runs with her partner Yarol Poupaud. And then there’s the long-time relationship with Chanel, a brand whose ambassador she’s been for years. “I’m quite lucky because thanks to Chanel, I have those timeless everlasting pieces which have been very efficient in my life, especially as I’m quite a lazy dresser,” says de Maigret, who is also the face of the brand’s latest, SS20 pre-collection which has just hit the stores. In addition to all the classic pieces from the French maison, the item she’s had in her wardrobe the longest is a black leather Perfecto biker jacket. “I feel very protected and like nothing can touch me – somehow, it’s like an armour.”

Chanel SS20 Pre-Collection; photographs by Leila Smara

Being a muse in her own right, it’s too difficult not to ask who she finds as her personal inspirations. In Older But Better, But Older, there’s a whole part titled What Would Keith Richards Do? in which de Maigret discusses the power of “stealing” from muses. Throughout our conversation, she brings up many others that didn’t necessarily make the pages – Françoise Sagan, Simone de Beauvoir and Charlotte Rampling all pop up. But if she could choose anyone – dead or alive – to write the foreword for the book, who would it be? “Agnes Varda. Because her age and her sex has never been an issue for anything in her life. She always let herself be and do whatever she wanted until the age of 90. She always worked on new projects and continued to prove throughout her life that age should not be an excuse for anything.” 

‘Older But Better, But Older’ by Caroline de Maigret and Sophie Mas is published by Ebury Press vailable to buy now. Top photograph by Bertrand Le Pluard.